Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Chiva

When we leave site we hike for 2 hours. It is about 45 minutes to the next town where we cross the river on foot. That part of the walk is hilly. About 15 minutes after the river you start to climb the mountain. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the top. From the top of the mountain there is an amazing view. On a clear day you can see the Carribean and the Pacific. On a clear night you can see the lights of Colo'n and they say you can see the lights of ships moving through the canal. On the other side they say you can see the lights of the Azuero (a peninsula to the south). The 3rd picture is one of the views from the top of the mountain. I think this was taken when we were hiking back in. Do you think we made it back before dark? Do you think we had our flashlights with us? .... No and no. It takes about 30 minutes to get down the mountain to the store where we catch our chiva. A few of our chivas are big and blue and from the back they are kind of pumpkin shaped. The first picture shows our chiva and our store. We usually hike out in knee high rubber boots and they let us leave them in a storage room at the tienda and pick them up on the way back through. The chiva ride can be anywhere from 1 to 2 hours. The road winds through the mountains and there are some amazing views. It takes longer when there are more people to pick up. There are chiva stops along the way but it also picks up people between stops if he sees them in time. The chiva arrives in our regional capital Penonome' which has hotels, restaurants, and internet. It is about a 2 and a half hour bus ride to the city (Panama City) which is huge and has everything you can imagine.
And that is the story of the chiva. I think chiva litterally means some kind of goat like animal but that is the word they use for some of the public transportation. There are buses and then their are chivas. A chiva can be a truck, a van, a small bus, or a flatbed truck with the back closed in, etc. And there is always room for one more person in the chiva...
This post was inspired by an e-mail from my favorite Frenchman in the world, Nicolas, and by a comment from Stephanie. Thanks for keeping up with us! And thanks to everyone who has commented or e-mailed about the blog. I finished my sentence on the pig post if you want to check that out.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Shower

The first picture is our shower. We are going to put a shower curtain over the open space. We are connected to the aqueduct but we do not have a water heater. We also have 2 shower bags that hold about 4 gallons each(thanks to both sets of parents!). We will fill them up and put them on the roof of the shower and then after a few hours of sun we can take warm showers if we want to. Lee will probably use these everytime because he really misses warm water. I don´t mind though. I am usually hot from working or hiking when I shower anyway so the cool water is refreshing. It is kind of rough sometimes when I don´t get a chance to shower until after dark though. As evening sets in the wind usually picks up a little and it can get pretty cool sometimes. The yellow thing in the background of this picture is my semillero. I chopped up some bamboo (yes, with my machete) to make little walls and I have a mixture of ash, soil, and river sand in there. I am going to plant the seeds in it when we move up there. We now have the cement poured for the floor in there and the sink is installed too.
The second picture shows how they mix the cement. We bought the cement and brought it in. The pile of rocks came from where they tore the old school down. The bags are the sand we bought from the hardware store. They usually go down to the river and haul up bags of rock and sand but that is hard work so we figured we would save them a little trouble.

Project Leadership and Management (PLM)

Today was the last day of our 3rd in service training. It was Tuesday throughThursday. We each brought someone from our site who we work with currently or plan to work with in the future. I brought Feliciano and Lee brought Teofilo. They were awesome! We all tried to speak only in Spanish the whole time because most of the people we brought from our communities only speak Spanish. That was kind of hard because we usually speak English with other volunteers but it would have been kind of inconsiderate. It was good practice anyway.

The people in the first picture are Feliciano, me, Steph, her work counterpart, and Teofilo. This was Feliciano and Teofilo´s first trip to the beach in the day time. There first trip ever to the beach was when they came to the same training facility in July to meet us and take us to visit our site for the first time. After a day of training a group of us walked down to the beach (about a mile away). The moon was really bright so that was beautiful. I´m glad they got to see it in the daylight this time though.

The next picture is from one of the dinamicas. We usually start each class-like session with a game or an activity where you have to move around and interact. This one is called Juana Chichi. Notice Lee being squished between Nate and Teofilo.

The 3rd picture is the view from the balcony of Noriega´s beach house. The U.S. bombed it in 1989 when they were after him. They finally caught up with him at the Vatican and he ended up in prison in Miami. He was released this past fall (it was a pretty hot topic here in Panama for a while). There was a lot of speculation about where he might be going. He ended up in prison in France. Anyway, the house is a mess and there is a lot of broken glass and rubble but you can tell it was beautiful in its day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making things for horses

Just about everyone in our site has horses. The other day our host family made a couple of the blanket things that go under the sadle. Here are pictures. They had that grass drying for a few days. Then they built that frame and were able to make 2 or 3 blankets that morning. Rigoberto, the oldest son (16 or 17) is on the left and Severiano (the dad) is on the right. When he saw that we had the camera he ran and grabbed his hat. He has awesome hair that is permanently in a doo wop loop, like he should be wearing a pastel suit and be leaning into the microphone singing Earth Angel.
Speaking of that, they asked us to help with the microphone (battery powered) that the church bought a few weeks ago. For some reason the instructions were only in English. Has anyone out there ever gotten instructions for anything electronic in fewer than 5 languages? So we helped them. I think I was the first to talk into it to see if it was working. I was excited that it worked so I held it up to Chana to say something into it, then Lee, Roge, Rigo, Mariella, and finally Severiano. Everyone pretty much said buenos dias, buenos buenos, or some version of that. When I held it up to Severiano, he switched into professional radio personality and said, ¨Good evening everyone. The problem has been resolved and the microphone is now working.¨ It was priceless. The instructions to there generator are also only in English. We are going to get the booklet sometime and translate it for them so they will have it when they need it whether we are there or not.


This is a picture of Lee´s soup. They use a lot of root crops in their lunch soups. This one has ñame, plantains, yuca, and otoe. The ñame is what makes it purple. The second picture is Chana (Feliciana) holding up 2 little ñames that look like fists with a big hunk of...otoe, maybe... I forgot what the big one is. She wanted the picture to include the pig planter that she made at school when they were learning about reuse and recycling.

T-bone harvesting coffee

This is one of our work partners, Teofilo, harvesting coffee with his wife Felipa. They sew sacks together and put them on the ground under where they are going to harvest. They make a hook in the end of a stick to pull the branches down. Then they pull the coffee off and it falls on the mat.

We call Teofilo T-bone because sometimes we speak English when we are around him and I don´t want him to hear his name thrown into the middle of a conversation in a foreign language.


Here are some pictures of quincha day. Valerio taught us how to do it. You have to find the right dirt and pick out all of the rocks, dig your hole, add water, and then crumble the dirt up(as demonstrated by Lee above) and add it until it is the right consistency, while you are mixing it with your bare feet(as demonstrated by Valerio and them me!). Then you add in a certain type of grass and make brick like forms. Then you make your walls. Notice Lee working side by side with a Panamanian. Clemente is almost as tall as Lee when he stands on the bench. Clemente is the actual owner of the house and he has been so nice and helpful. His children and their spouses have helped a lot too. Sorry about the sideways picture. I still haven´t completely figured out what I am doing with this.

Big Shrimping

This is a picture of Lee eating his sugar cane. I think in the background you can see 2 of the boys looking for shrimp. Sometimes they use a mask and look for them in the daytime like you see here. Sometimes they go at night, when you can find more, and they just use a flashlight. I guess they still use the machete too. Our host brother, Rogelio, caught some by bopping them over the head with the machete. This is Marcelino, his cousin, in the picture.

Oh, and did you ever wonder how you would get your pig across the river if you needed to? Well, of course, you would tie a rope around its neck like a leash and walk it across like a dog. And don´t forget to have a friend walk behind it to make crazy sounds (something along the lines of giddy up) to encourage it to keep walking. The pig crossing is in the second picture on this post. You should be able to click on the picture to make it larger so the pig is easier to find.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Packages and cards

Thanks to everyone who sent packages and cards. The most recent packages we got were from Susan, Tony, Claire, and Jonah, Lee´s Mom and Dad and Kari, and 2 from Mom and Dad. We got a lot of cards too. Lee says thanks to everyone who sent birthday cards. He got cards from his family, my family, Nancy, John, and Rocky, Susan, Tony, Jonah, and Claire, I hope we remembered all of them... We don´t have them with us right now because we got them last time we came out of site. Anyway, we really appreciate you guys thinking of us and we just wanted to let you know that the packages and cards made it here.

New Year´s Fiesta

We had a new year´s party with Julio from Fe y Alegria on January 4. Everyone brought food and we played games. It was nice. It was also a good opportunity for us to give candy to the kids. We got an awesome care package from my previous employer, Draffin & Tucker, and it had some big bags of candy. And just about everything else you can think of. It was a very big box and all of the other volunteers were jealous. We have been eating the candy and sharing it with the kids along the way but we were waiting for an opportunity to make bags and give them to the kids. Thanks to another gift from Nancy, John, and Rocky we had 25 gift bags to fill with candy. Thanks to my Mom and Dad, the bags made it down to Panama after we accidentally left them in the States. So, thanks to everyone who played a part in making this possible. Every child took a number and we drew the numbers out of a hat to see who won... We gave out 25 numbers so, as you can see, everybody won.

Planing wood

This is Lee cepillaring (planing) wood for the furniture for our house. Abraham is helping him. He is the one who carved the headboard with his machete.

La cabeza de Einstein

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Jose´s Birthday

We went to a birthday party a couple of days ago. It was really nice. We got a group picture of all of the family and friends who were there. I am posting pictures of the food table and the birthday boy. They had arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) which is their special birthday, fiesta dish. This time they had cake. They have not had cake at most of the birthday parties we have been to in site but they are always happy occasions anyway. They also gave out a lot of candy and they made a sweet treat out of yuca (cassava). Jose´turned 3 on they dia de los reyes (day of the kings). That´s the day the 3 kings made it to Bethlehem to see Jesus. They start their nativity scenes with the kings far away and each day they move them closer until the day of the kings when they finally arrive. This may be kind of obvious but Jose´is spanish for Joseph. Jose´s mom has more children but the only other one whose name I can remember is Natividad. He was born on Christmas day. More on him later because he is a little character...

The Tick

Well, I found a tick today... Lee says it is because I have been petting too many dogs lately. I can´t help it; we have some pretty awesome dogs in our site and they like to play. Anyway, I´ll spare you the detail of exactly where it was... Just know that it was in the nether regions... It was really little and Lee got it out head and all, this time. I had one a couple of months ago and he pulled it out but the head didn´t come out. It is all healed now though.

The House

Well, we have spent a lot of time this last week getting our house ready. We finished making the bed. They even made us a nice headboard (carving designs with the machete of course). We spent almost 2 days planing wood for the bed, shelves, a new door, a little table, and maybe a bench. It was hard work but kind of fun. I´ll post pictures when I can.

We came in to the pueblo today to finish up our community diagnostic, which looks pretty amazing, but we also had a bazillion errands to run too. We got some things for the house: dishes, cups, silverware, a skillet, a blanket, sheets, and so much more that I can´t think of right now. We shopped until the bags were too heavy to carry and then we went back to the hotel. Anyway, we came out today to get things done before Aimee´s visit next wednesday. She is going to bring a carload in when she comes and hopefully she will make it all the way in this time and won´t have to leave our things at the tienda on the other side of the river 40 minutes away... Well, we got a message from her today saying that she is going to have to move the visit back because she has to have minor surgery the first part of that week. It is kind of disappointing to have to change the date again but I know she can´t help it and that will give us another chance to come out of site and get the rest of the things for the house. We are going to try to start our trip back early tomorrow (we always try but usually end up hiking back in the dark anyway).

We have a big junta day planned for this thursday. We usually have 20-25 people come and help when we work on the house. We have juice breaks and a big lunch. We are going to mix the mud and grass for the quinche and repair some holes and smooth out the walls of our house. They are also going to pour the concrete in the shower and hook up the tubes and whatnot. They mentioned replacing the door too. If we get all of that done we will be able to move in when the quinche dries. Yesterday Clemente (the owner of the property) and his family and friends came and harvested more coffee and limpeared (cleared the underbrush with machetes) all the way down to the creek. We raked 3 bucket loads up for our compost. We harvested a bucket full of Japanese oranges. Chana (Teofilo´s daughter) climbed the tree and threw them down. They are so delicious and easy to peel. We saw that we have a mandarine tree too. It is past time for those now. We have a mango tree. Those will come in April, May, and June. They have had mango trees for a while there but they never bore fruit until a couple of years ago when it started getting hotter. Lee says I should write about the tick so that is coming next...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Sustainable Agricultural Systems

I will try to briefly explain the sector we are assigned to. As you can see it is called sustainable agricultural systems. We are working with the farmers to implement more sustainable farming techniques. Sometimes, the way they do things gets the job done but it is not leaving the land in very good condition for future generations or even for the next planting season sometimes. We are working with them on soil conservation, organic fertilizers, different techniques for farming rice, green manures, agroforestry systems, reforestation, etc. Some of the crops they have include rice, corn, yuca (cassava), cilantro, parsley, bananas, plantains, oranges, marañon curassow, beans, mangos, papaya, and so many more.

Our house

Since I am starting this after we are already 7 months into our Panama adventure I am going to try to catch up. We have lived in our community for 5 months now. For about the last 2 months we have been working on our house off and on. We were going to build a new one but we found a perfect location on an amazing lot and the family who owns it is very nice and was willing to help us repair the existing house. They say we can finish it in 2 days. We will probably spend one day on the adobe and one day finishing the shower and replacing some of the wood.

For now we are still with our 3rd host family in site, the Mendozas, and we are happy there. We have our own rancho and the family is very good to us and we have learned a lot from them. It will be nice to have a place of our own again though. We have started out compost up at the house but I can´t wait to get up there and start the garden, get a couple of laying hens (ponadoras), maybe a goat.

Happy New Years! Feliz año nuevo!

We welcomed in the new year last night in style watching fire works over the Pacific Ocean off Avenue de Balboa in Panama City. We were strategically located where we could see the muñequo burning as well. One of the restaurants had made a giant life-sized doll and stuffed it with fireworks as is the Panamanian way. Right after the fireworks they doused it with kerosene and lit it on fire. It was bright and loud and hot.
The first picture is a muñeco in progress in El Valle de Anton. The second one is a muñeco in our site made by Lina (Catalina) from our first host family.